In creating this arrangement of Ravel’s 1914 song for voice and piano (the first of two “mélodies hébraïques” set that year by the composer), I relied on both Ravel’s original as well as his 1919 arrangement of the song for voice and orchestra. The solo cello in my arrangement takes on the role of the vocal part. The eight-cello ensemble is versatile enough to take on the accompanying role played by the piano in the original and by the orchestra in Ravel’s arrangement. The original song reaches a dramatic high point near the end with a wordless ascent by the vocalist that is supported by a crescendo in the piano.
“Kaddish” (spelled without the “c” in English-speaking countries) is a term referencing one of several types of Jewish prayer. The Aramaic text set by Ravel is chanted during a synagogue service to mark divisions between sections of the service. The text praises God and hopes for the coming of his kingdom. Ravel’s vocal part includes quotations of Jewish liturgical melodies.